April 8, 2013

Allow three bowlers to bowl 12 overs each in ODIs

It's time to tip the scales slightly in favour of the bowling side, and thereby improve the quality of the contest

For a long time now, rule changes in ODIs have largely been geared towards helping batsmen score more runs, without caring about what it does to the balance of the contest between bat and ball. The Powerplays, the free hits for no-balls, and the reduction in the number of fielders allowed outside the circle in non-Powerplay overs, from five to four, are all examples of how the bowlers have been hit. Add to this meatier bats, smaller grounds, and batting beauties that go under the name of excellent pitches, and it's clear there's often little in it for bowlers in these matches.

The odd change has helped their cause - having two new balls helps fast bowlers outside the subcontinent - but those can hardly compensate for several others that go against the bowlers. In fact, this rule arguably favours batsmen on the slower tracks of the subcontinent, with the ball remaining hard for a longer period, and thus allowing batsmen to play their shots more comfortably. The five-inside-the-circle rule might, in theory, help the fielding team attack more, but on the flat tracks that ODIs are usually played on, it only denies the fielding team another boundary fielder.

The numbers show that ODI run rates have been steadily increasing over the decades, from 4.58 in the 1990s, to 4.89 in the 2000s, to 5.02 since the beginning of 2010. The rate in each year of ODI cricket since 2007 has been more than 4.90.

To redress the balance, it's time to allow the best bowlers in a team to bowl more overs. This isn't a new idea, and has even been adopted by the Indian board for the 2012-13 domestic season (one bowler from each team can bowl a maximum of 12 overs, with the others bowling not more than ten). Anil Kumble, who played a major role in introducing this change, and is a big fan of easing the ten-over limit: "I believe that 12 overs for one bowler in the one-dayers will not only provide a better contest between bat and ball but will also bring in more room for strategising for the captains."

I'd go further and allow three bowlers 12 overs, which will allow the best ones a greater say in the game. It'll give the captains more options, and help neutralise the effect of the batting Powerplays.

Currently, captains are often forced to use their best bowlers during this period, leaving them thin on resources during the final overs of an innings. These extra six overs will allow captains to use the best bowlers during the batting Powerplay and yet have overs from them left to utilise towards the end of the innings.

The best bowlers bowling more overs will also enhance the quality of the contest, with the fifth bowler needing to bowl fewer overs. In turn, it'll force batsmen to score off the better bowlers, instead of waiting to milk the fifth bowler.

There's also a case to similarly increase the number of overs a bowler can bowl from four to five in T20 internationals. Anything that enhances the contest between bat and ball needs to be encouraged; at the moment, it's mostly one-way traffic, with batsmen getting all the advantages.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ttn on April 10, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    I Beleive that since there is 12 overs per player. a total of 48 overs can be bowled by 4 bowlers with a part timer taking on the 2 overs. Which means the teams would to increase their batters up to seven. Thus it would mean the batsmen would be more aggresive than usual because of the additional batsmen. Thus this will counter ballance the "Good Baller Effect".

    And if one good baller does not a good day it means party for the batsmen.

  • Sundhar on April 9, 2013, 8:09 GMT

    I hate this phenomenon called 'bowling all-rounder'. Youngsters are misdirected to pursue both the aspects of cricket equally well, unless the person is as gifted as one-in-a-billion like a Kallis or a Sobers or an Imran Khan. We are seeing Parnell preferred over philander in T20. Jadeja preferred over Ojha. Peterson preferred over Tahir. This sets a bad precedent. After all its not their fault to pursue one aspect of the game, which is what youngsters are taught to do from the beginning. This ugly phenomenon is dictating the T20s now (we are seeing IPL teams play as many as 4 all-rounders). And slowly creeping into ODIs. This wont take long to hit the Tests, or has it already? (Jadeja..!!)

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2013, 7:48 GMT

    This will definitely impair the bowlers. Ya the bowlers in the team and the captain will be benefited. But the number of people who choose bowing as a career will be diminished. Now most teams have 5+4+1+1 combination. Your suggestion will mean a 5+3+2+1 combination is enough to complete the 50 over quota. That's not good news for bowlers sitting in the bench.

  • Tejas on April 9, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    I would rather give option to bowl unlimited overs to bowler... it should be completely captains logic to use which bowler at what time... why only batsmen have option to bat as long as wicket falls.....

  • Par on April 9, 2013, 1:25 GMT

    Frankly I am not getting how this move can help india or any team ? India doesnt have one good ODI bowler, let alone 3 to make use of such rule. It will be a good change though, it will expose the teams which do not have decent bowlers (i.e most teams) and put incentive on developing bowling stocks. Also the other aspect of 3 bowlers bowling 36 overs is: Avg batsman who thrive on flat pitches/ short boundaries/ 20 or more overs from avg bowlers (assuming a team has 3 good bowlers) will have a tough time. It will be delight to see Raina/ Yuvi/ Rohit and the likes having to face quality bowling for bulk of time against teams like SA or pakistan. Yes the shame is not many teams have 3 good bowlers. I can see batsman still flourishing against the likes of BD/ Eng (whose ODI bowling isnt top notch)/ even Aus/ WI/ NZL who dont have 3 top quality bowlers.

  • Dummy4 on April 8, 2013, 19:47 GMT

    With this, there is a chance that teams start playing with 4 bowlers instead of 5 as fifth bowler has to bowl only 4 overs now. so this means 1 bowler less included into the team so bowler will get less chance to represent their country and in fact one more batsman in the team means this rule will again in favor of batsman

  • Ashique on April 8, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    Good idea! Like it! One may also ponder the other side of the story: a team can choose to have only three genuine bowlers and one 'OK' bowler to get to 46 overs. These days hardly any team fields 5 genuine bowlers (barring South Africa, but that changes when Kallis retires). Will this proposed change reduce the number of specialist bowlers available, Rajesh?

  • Dummy4 on April 8, 2013, 18:40 GMT

    Stupid idea. And for those of you saying that if a batsman can play as many overs he wants then why don't the bowlers can bowl as much as they want, I would say you can't compare a bowler with a batsman. A bowler can comeback after being hit for a six, but a batsman can't come back if he is out. The game is already much in favor of the bowler!